Monday, May 9, 2011

Packing Up

Today is d-day. As is my habit, I've left everything for the last minute and as usual, I'm scrambling. Tomorrow morning I leave for the United States to watch (with my own 2 eyes) and celebrate the college graduation of my two boys. They both have taken their time, just like their mom, and I will be so proud and pleased to see them finally walk down that aisle in their silly, flat hats. Okay, I'm also pretty excited about no more tuition payments but mostly it's about their graduation!

What to pack....what not to pack? This ain't easy when you're going to a place where it last saw snow...last Monday....but where it's trying to be spring. It could be below freezing, it could be 80 degrees. So sweaters, shorts, or both?

Then there's the issue of french wardrobe versus American (midwest) wardrobe.  A friend of mine and I were laughing about this as I was pinning her older, American dresses closer to her body before making alterations. Our french clothes are different than our American clothes. The tops are lower, the skirts are shorter and everything is tighter. And as I was trying things on to make decisions, I realized everything of mine is tighter...and not because I want it that way! Ugh! Red wine and camembert. A couple of weeks ago, while my friends and I were shopping, I tried on a shirt that I fell in love with. It's a wee bit transparent and I asked them what I should wear under it. My friends and the saleslady dropped their jaws a bit and said "just a pretty bra of course". I replied I couldn't possibly get by with wearing this shirt "with just a pretty bra" in Minnesota...particularly not at my age. Two rolled their eyes and one gave the usual response as she shook her head: "You Americans are such puritans". So shear chemise and pretty bra are going to Minnesota for a test run!

Maurice, the dancing fish, has been deposited at the home of a pretty little girl who is so excited to take care of him. In fact, I just received word that she's trying to make him a little house for the bottom of his bowl. And Arthur, the roof cat, is going to visit a friend as a see if her boyfriend would put up with having an animal. I neglected to tell her that if Arthur doesn't like him, her sweetheart will have the scars to prove it. My cat isn't missing half an ear for nothing!

My lists are made of things I need to bring back for people. For me, foam paint brushes and Skippy. For others: Blistex, Citrucel, and Murine. It's always so odd what people miss here.

So now it's time to put it all together, finish the laundry and clean the apartment. I will try to stay in touch but, as usual, I've got a schedule in the states that leaves me exhausted before it even begins.  Nonetheless, I can't wait. Minnesota is so beautiful in the spring (or whatever season it is there). And I haven't seen it in it's green glory since the summer of 2008.

À bienôt mes amis,


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Guest Pest

I got to do a guest post yesterday! I feel like I've arrived. Several weeks ago, Lindsey over at The American Girl  asked me to write about my best day ever here in France as part of a series she's doing. The kind of moment that makes you realize you made the right decision or the kind that reawakens your courage when you're SURE you've made the wrong decision. I couldn't come up with the BEST. I'm terrible at choosing favorite things.

I love reading Lindsey's blog because it's about a young woman who has chosen to live in France. And I love looking at this whole business from her perspective. She's joyous, optimistic, open and a cutie patootie to boot. I mean what can you say about a young woman who can't sew but owns a sewing maching....just because she wants to sew...someday? Please take the time to check out her blog. For self-serving purposes, I'll link you up with MY article here! But take the time to read some more, okay?

Bon Week-end


Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Autonomist...With Good Intentions

Now it could have been previously mentioned whacked-out hormonal issues, but nonetheless, my mom's words cut me deeply. We were having a conversation on skype and I mentioned that I may take the opportunity to move into a really kick-ass apartment. An apartment that I could live in for a great price in exchange for overseeing it's remodeling, designing the kitchen, painting and sewing. I also mentioned that I was thinking of having the rest of my things (those that I just couldn't part with and didn't sell at my giant, pre-moving garage sale) shipped over here because they would work so perfectly in my new palace.

Apparently these remarks were like the last crank of a can opener before the lid is finally freed. Mom popped her lid.

Now please understand, this is not a rant against my mom. I'm a mother too and I know where she is coming from. But I've decided to write about this (it's been a month since our conversation and we're both calmer) because these types of things are a very real part of what may sometimes seem like the "fairytale" life of someone who has chosen to become an ex-patriot and leave their country of birth.

My mother, as she was ironing her clothes in preparation for a trip with my sister (the only child she now has left), proceeded to let go on me. So, when am I planning on coming back? It was only supposed to be for one year. Am I ever planning on coming back? My boys need me. Oh YES, they do!  I'm close to becoming a persona non grata and am not such a hot daughter, etc...etc. (please keep in mind that this is what I may not have been actually what she said. I suffer from more than a little guilt). The worst part was, as she was furiously pressing her pants, she told me that she had a whole lot more to say but was holding it back for fear of burning bridges. She did finish by saying "Delana will do what Delana wants to do".

I was stunned. I tried to defend myself. I protested that the boys were grown up and didn't need me all that much. I pointed out that she had moved away from her family. In the end, I excused myself and said I had to go. And as soon as I pushed the little red button that ended the call, I cried.

Not a few tears. Not a gentle, princess weeping. It was the can't-get-air-gasping-face-all-blotchy-eye-swelling-gross-bawling kind of crying.

I called my sister immediately, not seeking redemption (or tattling on my mom) but  asking for her honest opinion on the choices that I've made. And she told me what she thought as well. In a gentler fashion.

This weighed on me heavily for days. I vacillated between feeling like a horrible villain to naughty little girl;  a selfish, uncaring mother to a teenager just plain pissed off at how completely unfair parents can be and how they never let us do what we want!

But mostly, I was worried about my boys. The way my mom had talked, I felt she knew something about them and their lives that I didn't know.  Were they alright? Was something happening in their lives that they weren't telling me about because I'm just too far away? Had I really abandoned them, leaving them motherless and cast adrift? Was I just being a selfish wench who doesn't even deserve the wonderful family I've been so lucky to be blessed with?

I finally got a chance to talk to the boys over the next couple of days. I spoke with the youngest  on facebook and briefly explained the situation and asked him if he thought I was behaving like a bad mom. His lightening fast, initial response had me on my knees in laughter.

Colin:  I think a bad daughter is someone who pawns their mother's precious moments dolls for a couple of weeks stay in a motel in Massachusets with a guy named Ray whom she met at a bowling ally.

I'm 23. Ryan's 25. That's a three with a twenty before it.

Delana: I know. Do you think it's more her missing me and trying to come up with a reason to get me home?

Colin:  Like...chhhyeah! Of course. I miss you too. I'm not going to call you a bad mother because I don't think you are. 
You're an autonomist....with good intentions.

He then told me he was going to be completely honest with me...and I waited for a tongue lashing. But instead he proceeded to tell me that he misses me but would miss me if I still lived 3 hours away. Because he doesn't have the time or money to do any visiting and besides, he said, how much did you see your mom when you were our ages?

Colin: I want you to be doing what you want to be doing. I'm proud of you for taking the leap. Although it's not unlike I've heard.

Delana: Are you being completely honest here?

Colin: Honest. So don't let Grandma get you all butthurt over what she thinks Ryan and I feel. Cause it's not true. And don't let anyone make you feel like you're a bad mother because I know, I really know how much you sacrificed for us. And don't get mad a Grandma either. She misses you.

This brings us to one question and two points. The question...what the hell is "butthurt"? The points...I never sacrificed anything. Being a mother isn't about sacrifice, it's about love and I told him so. Point number two...I'm not mad at mom.

I spoke with son number one on the telephone a few days later and he iterated what his brother had already said.  This brings up one more point. I have cool sons. And I was relieved.....sort of.

But this still leaves the issue (guilt) of my mom and my sister. We are 3. That's all. As my sister told me "We miss you. We love you. We want you to come home....when you're ready....but that will be soon, won't it? Mom doesn't want to wait to spend time with you when she's old or sick. She wants you now. And so do I".

There is no nice, neat finish to this story. There is no answer to these questions. These are things that I imagine all expatriates struggle with. The truth is, everything my mom said to me are things that I continually ask myself. And I return to...probably selfishly... Delana will do what Delana wants to do. But she will feel a little guilty about it. Because she knows that in spite of her mother letting it all go on her (on an off moment, probably related to all that ironing she had to do), it's only because her mother loves her....and misses her. And her mother is loved and missed in return. 


Monday, May 2, 2011

And Many Hormonal Returns

Saturday was my birthday. And I behaved completely out of character. During the days before The Grand Event, I fell into some sort of premenstrual/ menopausal funk (how can this possibly be fair?), although I didn't know what the hell was the matter with me at the time, and I had no desire to announce my day to the world. This is not like me. I normally take every, single opportunity to tell the world it's my birthday and revel in the warm fuzzies of it all.  But this year, I didn't send out a pre-announcement on my blog, I put nothing on facebook, I didn't even take out an ad in the newspaper (which I've never done but I've considered it!)

I mourned the fact that I still hadn't found a birthday crown, I took a gander at the royal wedding and realized the damned princess had made off with MY crown,  I half-heartedly tried to decide which pair of high heals I'd wear to make up for the missing crown, I baked another tarte au citron and tried a new, fabulous, simple recipe for a Hazelnut-Chocolate torte, which I found over at Darjeeling Dreams, another one of my go-to blogs for great recipes.

There's something amazingly therapeutic about beating egg whites, don't you think? 

I wrote a couple of completely dismal, self-pitying emails, I wondered if I was going crazy...and then...

I woke up Saturday find the hormonal haze had lifted and it was going to be a great day!

And it was. I once again boarded the bus, this time headed for Lynn's house, with a sack full of baked goods, announced to the bus driver and all who could hear me (which I assume was everybody on the bus...I was feeling so great) that it was my birthday and I let them sing for me.

I lunched with these fabulous women

Upon my return, I announced to the landlord (who happened to be in the upstairs window) that it was my birthday so that I could graciously receive my birthday kisses from he and his wife.

I had dinner with more friends and partied until two am. I even took the liberty of taking a birthday extension (which I did announce on facebook....obviously feeling myself again) and went to the market and dined with more friends on Sunday night.

There was no announcement, no crown, no high heels...and it was still a great day weekend. My mom's card this year said "behind every super woman is a great pair of shoes". This is what I ended up wearing this weekend....

and I still felt REGAL! Birthdays have a way of doing that. They're even stronger than wacked-out hormones.